The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)

…for only a madman believes what every child knows to be true: There are monsters that lie in wait under our beds.

Let me start by saying that if you’re easily disgusted this is not the book for you. At all. There’s some serious gore going on here guys and my stomach doesn’t turn itself easily (I’m studying to be a biologist, so really, that would be a bad thing), so believe when I say this. There’s lots of blood and Yancey describes death with careful precision, perhaps even too much precision. Kind of like this:

As he spoke, the doctor tapped thin strips of flesh from the forceps into the metal tray, dark and stringy, like half-cured jerky, a piece of white material clinging to one of two of the strands, and I realized he wasn’t peeling off pieces of the monsters flesh: The flesh belonged to the face and neck of the girl.

And it gets worse as it goes. This sounded like an early teen’s book (or even children’s lit) when I picked it up, but since it’s so gory and disgusting I’m not exactly sure. That being said I can now get on with the review.

The Monstrumologist takes place at the late 1800s and is the written account of Will Henry’s time as a monstrumologist’s assistant, a man called Pellinore Warthrop. This is the first installment in the series and it covers Will’s first three ‘journals’, in which he and the Dr. Warthrop encounter a headless monster, Anthropophagus, living in their hometown’s cemetery and feeding off the corpses buried there. But Anthropophagus normally feed on living flesh and soon corpses won’t be good enough for them.

I really liked this book, despite the kind of meh reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series. I thought it was cleaver, with a nicely woven plot. I’m happy with the character development (though it’s not really a character driven book, I think) and thoroughly enjoyed the action scenes (bloody as they were). I also loved the illustrations it has on every other page, all medical tools of some sort drawn on the edges of the pages, like scissor and needles and things. It gave the book an even creepier feel.

I liked Will, I felt like he was very mature for his age (which is 12 by the way), since he had to basically take care of himself and help the doctor with his work. We get the clear message that he doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t go around whining about it or feeling sorry for himself. He was just a quiet little boy with a strange mentor.

He turned the severity of his countenance fully upon me, startling me from my semi-stupor, for suddenly I existed again. I was dead; I was reborn. I was forgotten, and in the blink of an eye – his eye – the world remembered me.

Warthrop, though, is an entirely different story. I didn’t care for him through most of the book, I just wanted to shake him and point out that Will Henry was right there if he’d just care to look, thank you very much. I like that we get to see why he’s relationship with Will is the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

I did not think the doctor was a monster that hunted monsters, but I was about to meet a man who did – and was.

My favorite character was probably the worst of the lot, so I can’t really complain about Warthrop. John Kearns (or whatever his name actually is) is cunning, cold and a murderer. He doesn’t care for any one’s life (not even his own) and will do anything to achieve his goals. He called people out on their hypocrisy and twisted morals a lot. I really wished we could see some of his past, because it must have been gruesome. And the plot twist in the end? Brilliant, Mr. Yancey. I hope he’ll show up in the other books (though I was cursing him through half of this one).

“We are very much like them: indiscriminate killers, ruled by drives little acknowledged and less understood, mindlessly territorial and murderously jealous – the only significant difference being that they have yet to master our expertise in hypocrisy, the gift of our superior intellect that enables us to slaughter one another in droves, more often than not under the auspices of an approving god!”

Advertisements

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy

Image

“There are two czars in Russia,” pronounced one liberal spokesman, “and the other is Tolstoy.”

That’s what Doris Lessing wrote in her introduction to The Kreutzer Sonata. She also says that the people expected him to “take a stand” on all subjects and so he did, writing about love, marriage, lust and betrayal. This is one strange book, full of contradictions and not at all like what I expected of Tolstoy, or what I heard of Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Lessing said that Tolstoy became a fanatic and this book proves it.

The Kreutzer Sonata is about a man, called Pozdnyshev, who in a fit of jealousy murders his wife. The story starts with the narrator, Pozdnyshev and some other people in a train. Somehow they start discussing divorces and how such things didn’t exist before, when Pozdnyshev tells them he killed his wife for cheating on him and proceeds to tell his tale to the narrator. It’s quite a short story even if you add the sequel to The Kreutzer Sonata which Tolstoy wrote some time later.

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I mean, in a fictional sense I liked Pozdnyshev tale and his attempt to explain his madness, but until then I was not taking his view on things as Tolstoy’s own or very seriously. Then came the sequel. Why, Tolstoy? Why did you write that sequel? Because, as you said, people did not seem to understand what exactly was your view on marriage, divorce and betrayal? Well, of course they didn’t! Pozdnyshev’s outlook on life was so bleak that we’re not sure what he means half the time.

“…If the aim of mankind is happiness, goodness, love – if you prefer; if the aim of mankind is what is said in the prophecies, that all men are to unite in universal love, that the spears are to be beaten into pruning hooks and the like, then what stands in the way of the attainment of the aim? Human passions do! Of all passions, the most powerful and vicious and obstinate is sexual, carnal love; and so, if passions are annihilated and with them the most powerful – carnal love – then the prophecy will be fulfilled.”

What? There is something terribly wrong with someone who says sex is evil. Also, this is apparently a new development with Tolstoy (thankfully), because according to Lessing none of this was present in his other books. And so my enjoyment of this book was hindered by the fact that by this point in his life Tolstoy did believe in this sex free life = happiness for all world thing and was quite aware of how impossible it was.

Don’t even get me started on the “women hate sex” and “sex is a vice of men” thing, because I’m not completely sure where he got that from (his wife can’t represent all the women in the world, please). I could quote half the book and put a question mark at the end of each, yes, but then there are some that, taken by themselves and out of context, are quite good and more like what I expected from his hype. Like this one:

It cannot be necessary to destroy some people, body and soul, for the health of others, any more than in can be necessary for some people to drink the blood of others in order to be healthy.

Edward Cullen would certainly agree with the end of the sentence, though I’m sure Count Dracula would be seriously disappointed in you Tolstoy. Still, the first part is quite true and can be taken as anti-slavery and anti some sort of greedy capitalism that only takes and never gives back. So by digging and disregarding some things we can get some truly great ideas out of this book. But that’s not enough to make me give it more than one star on Goodreads. Sorry Tolstoy, I hope your other books are better.

Last, but not least, let me leave you with this little gem (except not):

It is bad to use means to prevent the birth of children, both because so doing frees people from the cares and troubles caused by children, which should serve to redeem sexual love, and also because it comes very near to what is most revolting to our conscience – murder.

Tolstoy would be seriously disappointed in today’s society. Also: that description of what a night at Tolstoy’s house was probably like? Creepy as hell, no wonder his wife didn’t like sex.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

ImageI finished reading Shadow and Bone about a week ago and might be a little fuzzy on the details, but I needed to let this story rest for a while before I could talk about it. I absolutely devoured this book, I read it in basically one sitting and on the same night I bought it I was already looking for the next one. That’s not to say it was perfect, but I’ll definitively pick up the next one.

“It’s such an honor to finally meet the Sun Summoner.”

Shadow and Bone is about an orphan called Alina Starkov who, together with her best friend Mal, is a soldier at the First Army. While crossing what is known as the Shadow Fold, a dark and impenetrable place with creatures that eat human flesh, she unknowingly saves everyone by displaying Grisha abilities. Soon she’s swept away into this glamorous and mysterious world that is the Grisha world or, how they are also called, the Second Army. But this elite magical people hide many secrets and Alina has to deal with them all, including her dangerous attraction to their leader: the Darkling.

Let me start by saying that what first drew me to it was the cover, all that black and red and gray that becomes white; I just had to pick it up. But this book also has an impressive world building, and that it was always shown rather than told. It definitively gets points for that. I really liked the contrast between everyone else and the Grisha: we get to see the First Army (a more traditional army) which is disciplined and not at all luxurious and then the Grisha, who live on a palace beside the King’s and wear fine fabrics.

The hair rose on my arms. I had the same feeling I’d had as we were crossing the canal, the sense of crossing the boundary between two worlds.

I can’t say too much about the Darkling because that way lays some major spoilers, but while I never liked him much personality wise I have to admit I wavered between wanting him to be good and wanting him to be bad. Court life didn’t interest me very much, I preferred to hear about the army and fights, but there was some important plot development going on there that kept me reading.

One of the things I loved about this book was the names. Everything has beautiful Russian-like names and that’s one of my favorite languages. It gave Ravka, Alina’s fictional homeland, a foreign feel to me. Made everything more magical, since it’s not a language I hear much here in Brazil. Another was the different point of view she gave the prologue and the epilogue, going from first person to third, it set the ethereal feel of the whole book that much higher.

“Goed morgen, fentomen!” a deckhand shouts to them as he passes by, his arms full of rope.

All the ship’s crew call them fentomen. It is the Kerch word for ghosts.

That’s pretty much it from what I remember. One of the problems of letting a story steam too long is that I end up forgetting some of the details I wanted to talk about, but I think I covered most of what caught my attention.

Mini Review: Holes by Louis Sachar

I’m so sorry that I’ve let this blog gather dust, but it’s been crazy at uni and no book seemed to catch my attention. But here is my promised review of Holes (and yes, I know, it’s actually a mini review, but still). I also seem to be back on the reading track and will soon have some other reviews to post. Thanks for not giving up on me?

ImageHoles tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Stanley is convicted for a crime he did not commit, and when given a choice between jail and Camp Green Lake he took what seemed like the lesser of two evils. But digging holes every day is no holiday and soon he’ll discover that they may not be digging simply to ‘build character’.

“Well, let me tell you something, Caveman. You are here on account of one person. If it wasn’t for that person, you wouldn’t be here digging holes in the hot sun. You know who that person is?”

“My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”

When I picked this up I thought it would be a funny book about an unlucky boy. And it is funny, I spend the whole book being amused at what was going on. Like when Stanley would finally have some luck in his life and be granted a day off digging, he had to give his finding to X-Ray. Plus the whole great-great-grandfather thing, of course.

And the parallels, don’t even get me started on the parallels. The thumb, the onions, K. B., Stanley and Zero’s friendship, and even the Warren. They all coincided nicely with the flashbacks, connecting everything together. One thing I didn’t like was that I tended to forget Stanley didn’t know the same things I knew, which made me want to shout at him sometimes until I realized he had no way of knowing. So the flashbacks were a bit confusing.

I think Zero was my favourite character. He’s called dumb, nobody, nothing and a bunch of other demeaning things during the book, when in reality he was the complete opposite. So it might or might not have been really satisfactory when he hit Mom in the face with a shovel. And kept saying he loved digging holes when he actually hated it.

I’ll definitively check out the movie now. I mean, Sigourney Weaver and Shia LaBeouf? It has to be good.

His legs were sore from remaining rigid for so long. Standing still was more strenuous than walking. He slowly allowed himself to lean against the side of the hole.

The lizards didn’t seem to mind.